Government, through Minister of Agriculture Lobin Lowe, has shut down Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (Admarc), citing high levels of corruption, theft and professional negligence at the State-owned grain trader.
Speaking during a press briefing Wednesday, Lowe sent all members of staff for the corporation on paid leave and suspended all its activities except social services.
Lowe said police have been deployed to all Admarc offices to ensure that no employee goes near the corporation’s premises, saying doing that will be considered trespassing.
A visibly angry Lowe said the government is not happy with Admarc’s failure to tick and yet continues to drain government resources.
“Some very few officers have already been communicated to take charge of such markets to allow continued sale of maize. My ministry together with Admarc shareholders will expeditiously sort out the issues to allow resumption of the suspended services the soonest,” the minister said.
He said government’s pronouncements are with immediate effect and aim at restructuring the institution so that it begins to make business sense.
Another pronouncement that Lowe made was the redefining of Admarc.
“Prolonged conflicts between Admarc board of directors and management leading to poor governance, suspected corrupt practices perpetrated by some employees of the company and unprocedural recruitment of some employees have been detrimental to Admarc,” he said.
During the briefing, Lowe, who was in the company of his deputy Madalitso Kambauwa Wirima, principal secretaries (PSs) and other officials, disclosed that Admarc has failed to account for about K1.5 billion of money realised from the sale of fertiliser under the Affordable Inputs Programme.
He also said the government gave K6 billion to the institution for the purchase of about 34,000 metric tonnes (MT) can so far not be traced but no maize was procured.
“We are instituting investigations into all that because what we see here is total negligence. We would like to turn the fortunes of Admarc so that local farmers can benefit from it,” Lowe said.
According to Lowe, Admarc has 4,063 salaried employees when it needs 1,500 members of staff only.
Commenting on the development, Chairperson for the Agriculture Committee of Parliament Sameer Suleman said the directive is as good as killing Admarc.
Suleman said lack of political will has escalated the mess that Admarc has been embroidered in.
“This is a sad for Malawians. Shutting down Admarc is not the solution. This is not how you deal with a big institution like Admarc, which has been the backbone of the economy. One wonders what they are going to do with all the maize that is in its warehouses,” Suleman said.
Meanwhile, Secretary for Agriculture Sandram Maweru said the ministry has given itself three months to conclude the investigations and restructure the corporation.
Admarc owes commercial banks over K70 billion in unsettled loans.